Writing Challenge #3, “Wedding Day”

“Wedding Day”

Jannica reflects upon her relationship with her fiancé as she gets ready to walk down the aisle during her unusual wedding in an arcade.

“Jannica, I can’t believe you let James talk you into this,” Beth said as we waited at the rear of the arcade.  She nearly had to shout for me to hear her over the clanging of the skee-ball lanes we stood beside.  I rolled my eyes, but didn’t bother to respond to her comment.

The first time I’d met James, I’d been 17, just starting my senior year of high school.  The August night outside was calm and humid, but inside the Game Arcade, it was noisy and cool.  I stood at the same skee-ball lanes, hefting the smooth wooden ball in my hand, judging my next roll.  As I rolled, a ball, twin to the one I held in my hand, skipped across three of the lanes and sank easily into my 100-point ring.  My ball settled glumly into the bottom fissure, earning me no points.  As the bells above my lane began to ring and tickets spouted out of the slot, I glared over at the boy who had thrown the errant ball.  He grinned at me from underneath a mop of curly auburn brown hair.  James had been confident and cocky then, and I’d given him a shoulder that matched the frigid arcade temperature before he could do much more than tell me his name.

A hush fell over the arcade as the skee-ball lanes fell silent.  The opening strains of Patchelbel’s Cannon in D began to float through the unnatural quiet.  I could hear the creak of wooden seats as 150 people turned almost in unison to watch two of the ushers unroll a pristine white runner.

The second time I’d met James, I was working my way through college at a local coffee place.  I’d taken a pot of coffee out into the dining room to refill empty cups with the fragrant brown beverage.  He grinned at me the same way he had at the Arcade, then pinched my bottom.  I’d “accidentally” spilled the rest of the coffee pot into his lap.

The apple-red satin of Emily’s dress swished around her ankles as she began her slow march to the front of the Arcade.  Beth handed her bouquet of American Beauties to my sister, Michaela, and fussed with the train of my long, white wedding dress.

James turned up in my Comparative Literature class my junior year of college.  Stuck in a situation where I couldn’t just walk away, I was forced to actually get to know the mischievous boy from the Arcade and the coffee shop.  I finally, at the end of the semester, agreed to a date.  “Just one,” I acquiesced, “and you’ll leave me alone?”   He laughed delightedly, and agreed to my terms.  “But,” he said with a sly smile, “I won’t try to stop you if you decide you want to see me again.”

Beth took her bouquet back from Michaela. My sister then tossed her gleaming dark hair back from her face, and followed Emily down the makeshift aisle.  Beth grimaced, preparing for her own walk.  I leaned over and whispered into her ear, “It’s okay, Beth, I got used to the idea.  Now I think it’s…different and fun.”  Beth looked over her shoulder at me, and managed a small, ironic smile.

James took me to Carlolina Arcade for our “one” date.  The arched stone columns were decorated by climbing ivy and small white lights.  James had packed us a light picnic of strawberries, chocolate, and sparkling grape juice.  At dusk, the Arcade looked like a fairy kingdom.  Between the lights and James feeding me strawberries and chocolate, I fell in love.  I didn’t even mind when he sprayed me with the sparkling grape juice after tossing the bottle around, trying to impress me.

The music swelled, signaling that Beth should begin her walk down the aisle to join the rest of the wedding party.  She gave me a brief hug, then kissed my cheek.  “As long as you’re happy,” she said quietly, then turned on her heel and moved into place.  One last glance back, and she began to slowly sashay up the aisle.  I stood alone at the back of the Arcade, still half-lost in my memories.

James proposed at the site of our first date, underneath the same softly glowing stone arch where he’d sprayed me with grape juice.  “I’m glad you wanted to see me again,” he said softly, pulling the black velvet box out of his pocket.  Inside was a ring made of chocolate, which he made me wear.  We ate it together, giggling like five year olds as he licked the last bit of chocolate off of my knuckle.  He slipped the real ring onto my finger as he whispered, “I love you.”

The music paused, and there was a collective inhalation as our guests stood up and turned away from the front, looking eagerly at me.  I felt myself flush, slightly embarrassed by all of the attention, waiting for the music to resume.

“Let’s get married at the Arcade,” James suggested later that month.  I happily agreed, thinking of a beautiful twilight ceremony, lit only by the lights that twined around the high arches of Carlolina Arcade.   James eagerly put down the deposit, amazed I’d agreed so quickly.  I told him how beautiful the spot of our first date was, and he looked puzzled.  “I was talking about the Game Arcade, where we first met…and that deposit is non-refundable…”  We argued for weeks about the Arcade, almost breaking up several times.  I had visions of the big traditional wedding with the big traditional reception to follow; James wanted something different and off the wall.

My music started softly, and I took one last deep breath and began my slow waltz to the alter.  James waited for me, face aglow. I realized that it mattered not how we were married, but that we were married.  As I finally reached the front and slid my hand into James’ outstretched one, I whispered, “I love you.”

Published in: on August 27, 2009 at 10:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Challenge #2, “Rainy Days”

A crowd huddled under their large umbrellas near the taxi stand, trying to avoid the torrential downpour that soaked London’s cobblestone streets as they waited for the next hansom cab to arrive. “Beasts!” one lady murmured to her husband as muddy water splashed by street urchins threatened to sully her fine velvet dress.  On the fringe of the crowd stood a careworn young woman, dressed a heavy wool peasant cloak that covered her from neck to feet, tired head bowed under the heavy rain.
The muffled clop of soggy hooves finally made themselves audible over the pounding rain, and the people gathered ‘round the taxi stand surged forward slightly, peering through the damp, foggy night, attempting to see the arriving cab.  As the hansom slowed to a stop, a young, self-important young man pushed through the crowd.  “Coming through chaps!” the young man yelled, pushing the young woman aside and knocking her into a mud puddle.  He glanced at her, then laughed as he continued to force his way through the tightly packed crowd.  The cab rolled to a stop as he swung himself up onto the carriage block and slid in to the dry interior.  Around him, the gathered crowd cried out, but the young man stuck his umbrella out the open cab window, shook it off, and then waved as the hansom driver flicked his whip at the carriage horses, setting them in motion again.
“Ridiculous,” the young woman heard as she struggled out of the deep puddle, “he does this every time it rains.  Someone needs to do something about this!”

You’re LATE!” her father roared as the young woman managed to drag herself through a massive wooden door, dripping muddy water all over the fine rugs in the castle’s entranceway.
Erminaguilda, princess of the Dark Elves, bowed to her father Gwendimalivous, King of the Dark Elves.  As she eased up out of her bow, the cloak swung open to reveal a fine red satin dress, ruined from the mud and the rain.  “I’m sorry, Father,” she said softly, rising up out of the bow. Gwendimalivous looked her up and down, taking in her damp and disheveled state.
“What in the nine kingdoms happened to you?” he bellowed, pacing forward to push her damp red-gold curls out of her face. “You look like you’ve been swimming in Blackwood Pond! Never mind, I’ll never get a straight answer out of you, my daughter.” King Father clapped his hands and called for his mirror. A page slunk out of a side passage, staggering under the weight of a heavily framed hand mirror.
“Mirror, mirror, by my hand,” he said, bending closer to the page as the young boy held out to him, “Show me what has happened in this land.” The mirror clouded, then slowly revealed the scene. Gwendimalivous watched in silence as he watched the event at the taxi stand.
“Daughter,” he boomed, “why did you not take that young man to task?” he asked
“It all happened so fast, Father,” Erminaguilda said angrily. “He was in the cab and gone before I realized what had happened.”
“Well, then, we’ll just have to teach him a lesson, won’t we?” Gwendimalivous said, smiling broadly and showing off sharp, pointed teeth. Erminaguilda answered the smile with one of her own, green eyes glinting maliciously. “Yes, we shall.”

The following day, Erminaguilda stood regally at the taxi stand, garbed in a green brocade dress, kept dry by several umbrellas held by attentive pages.  Her father had made sure that today was equally as wet as the previous day.  She tapped a well-shod foot in impatience as she waited for her prey.
Hoof beats sounded in the distance, and as before, the pompous young man from yesterday ran into view and began to push his way to the front of the taxi stand.  As he was about to open the door of the hansom cab, Erminaguilda threw out a satin-gloved hand and commanded, “STOP!”  The young man stopped with his hand outstretched, an inch from the carriage door.  A puzzled expression washed over his face as he struggled to grab the handle of the hansom cab, but was unable move.
Erminaguilda strode forward, pages trailing behind.  The crowd parted before her, until she was standing at the foot of the carriage steps, looking up disdainfully at the young man.  “Sir, what do you think you are doing?” she asked scorn dripping from the words.
“I am taking this cab,” he said haughtily, and then took another look at the beautiful young lady staring up at him.  “Unless you’d like to take it, my lady.”  The young man’s smug expression morphed into one of instant infatuation.  Erminaguilda let a small smile play around her lips as the young man almost tripped over himself offering her the carriage, his home, his wealth.
“Yesterday, you laughed as you knocked me into a puddle,” Erminaguilda said, “and today you offer me the carriage?  What has changed?  I’m still the same person, just wearing my finery exposed this day.”  The young man’s face fell, and he spluttered apologies and asked for forgiveness.
“I think not,” Erminaguilda said.  “I think instead, I shall give you this gift:  From today, and until the day you learn to treat all people with respect, you will be unable to dry off.  You will walk around in your own perpetual rain cloud.”  As Erminaguilda finished her curse, the clouds covering the London sky broke open, and the sun shone through, except for the patch of sky above the hapless young man.  The crowed cheered as he ran down the stairs, the patch of rain following his every step.  “A fitting punishment,” Erminaguilda heard someone from the crowd murmur, and she smiled.  Someday the young man might learn his lesson and the curse would be lifted, but Erminaguilda was certain it would take a long, long time.

Published in: on July 30, 2009 at 5:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Challenge #1, “Pranks”

Knight and squire passed through the tournament grounds, staring at the controlled chaos that surrounded them.  It was the first tournament for both of them, and no amount of practice could have prepared them for the sheer volume of people, animals, and noise.  Chickens and small children darted underfoot, nearly getting trampled by the fantastic steeds most of the knights possessed.  Sir Arger felt self-conscious as he led his war-horse past vibrant colored dragons, pastel-hued unicorns, and even a large, flightless bird known as a Conchola.  The iridescent-feathered bird honked loudly as he strode by, startling Arger’s squire Jansy into a short, nervous flight.
The page assigned to them led them out of the tournament grounds and through the Quedella Castle gates, and finally stopped at the mouth of the cave that housed the entrance to the castle’s catacombs.  “Sir Arger,” he piped in his high pre-adolescent voice, “here are your accommodations.”   The small boy  spun around in a flurry of his heavy linen tabard and vanished, porting himself back to the page’s bunkhouse.
Arger hobbled his charger and ventured into the cave. A cot and a rickety looking armor rack had been set up against one wall.  Pools of rank standing water dotted the uneven stone floor, formed from the drops that slowly dripped out of cracks in the cave’s ceiling.  A rusted and stained iron door dominated the back of the cave, hiding the entrance to the catacombs housed below.
“If my wings get waterlogged and moldy, I’m never going to be able to fly again,” Jansy groused, tucking his wings as close to his lean, sinewy body as he could.  The squire splashed through a large puddle, wrinkling up his nose in disgust.  “Ugh!” he exclaimed, shaking a bit of slime off the toe of his boot, “I’m going to need a can opener to pry you out of your armor after it rusts in this damp.”
Arger was considered a novice Knight, only in his first year competing in the tournaments.  He knew that the novice Knights did not get the best accommodations that most castles had to offer, but the dank cave bordered on an insult to both himself and the Lord he represented.  He sat down on the cot, which immediately collapsed into the shallow pool that had been hidden beneath the legs the frail bunk.  Jansy was showered in the cold, scummy water, causing the squire to shriek and flail arms and wings, flinging a storm of wet feathers around the small cave.
The heavy iron door burst open, revealing two figures doubled over each other, howling in laughter.  Sir Irwin, another novice Knight and Arger’s best friend, managed to straighten himself up and extricate his limbs from his laughter-paralyzed squire.  He stepped over to offer his hand to help Arger up off the ruined cot. “I should have known this was just another one of your practical jokes, Irwin.  Nice job on the page, it added authenticity to the stunt,” Arger said ruefully, using Irwin’s arm to lever himself off the moist wreckage of the cot.
“You never learn,” Irwin said, slinging a casual arm around Arger’s shoulders.  “Your quarters are next to mine, I’ll show them to you.”  As the two young knights ambled slowly towards the castle, Arger began to plot his revenge. They passed through a servant’s entrance as a slight smile crossed Arger’s lips.   The plan was perfect, and Irwin would never suspect a thing…

Published in: on July 30, 2009 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment